Wrestling icon Bruno Sammartino has passed away at age 82. His two title reigns lasted a combined 11+ years. Bruno held the championship for 2,803 days during his first reign, which is the longest in company history. Your parents and grandparents may not have watched wrestling in decades, but chances are they know about Bruno. If they’re Italian, they definitely know. Bruno probably got them into wrestling and was the reason it became popular.
Therefore, he is probably one of the major reasons you watch it today if you’re a current fan or watched it 30 years ago if you’re old like me. Either because Bruno brought the business success or because he initially made your family interested and watching wrestling became a family tradition.
If you are fairly young and watch his matches for the first time today, you’ll probably be shocked at his style. Lots of punching and kicking. Bruno was certainly not a high flyer. Obviously wrestling has changed dramatically in the last 50 or 60 years. The fact that he was so loved and his bosses wanted him to remain champion for years is even more impressive when you consider that he wasn’t flying off ropes like today’s wrestlers. I remember him mostly as an announcer.
Bruno wrestled some matches during the mid and late 1980s. Vince McMahon wanted to cash in on his popularity when Hulk Hogan was not on the card. Sammartino appeared in Boston and New York as either a wrestler or Piper’s Pit guest. Even at 50 and 51 years of age, Bruno’s name carried weight in Northeastern cities. Few stats convey his popularity better than selling out Madison Square Garden 187 times.
After leaving the WWF, Bruno had his differences with McMahon. I’m glad that they eventually made peace. In 2013 Bruno took his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. It was good to see him getting the proper recognition. Hopefully, he enjoyed the spotlight. People have been quick to praise him for being a great guy. Whether it’s somebody calling WFAN or men involved with wrestling on Twitter, there have been stories about how nice he was. It seems like Bruno treated both fans and people in the business with respect.
RIP Bruno. Thanks for everything.